Stripping burley tobacco into different grades has been a controversial topic for many years. The one-price years in the mid to late 80’s provided no incentive to the producer to strip into the appropriate grades. However, with the advent of contracting in the year 2000, many companies are suggesting four grades but still get a high percentage of three-grade tobacco. Tobacco companies can utilize a small percentage of mixed stripped tobacco, but the handling characteristics of the four stalk positions differ substantially during processing. As the companies make their blends, they look for specific characteristics that differ from grade to grade. A look at the 2001 variety test plots provides some insight into this topic. Although the variety test plot protocol for 2001 called for four grades, some cooperators stripped trials into three grades. A comparison of the percentages stripped into each grade reveals the different distribution of leaves between three-grade and four-grade tobacco.

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